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  • Grand Canyon National ParkGrand Canyon National Park, Arizona
    The Grand Canyon National Park, found in the state of Arizona, is the one of the oldest national parks in the nation, and this magnificent gorge astride the Colorado River is one of the major natural wonders of the world. Sprawling over 1902 miles of the unincorporated regions of Coconino and Mohave Counties, most visitors come to the park via Arizona State Route 64, entering in at the south entrance by Tusayan, Arizona. Almost 30 miles of the south rim are accessible by the road, with another entrance on the north rim, but no connection in between, except going over the Navajo Bridge, which means you are going to have a 5 hour detour. The two rims are connected by Las Vegas, Nevada and the Hoover Dam. The remainder of the canyon is really rugged and remote, but you can get there by using pack trails or backcountry roads. The surrounding region was made a national monument in 1908, and became a national park in 1919. The Grand Canyon, and its expansive system of tributary canyons is invaluable for its unique combination of size, depth and exposed rock layering that is most colorful and dates back to the Precambrian period. The beautiful landscape was designed by the incision of the Colorado River, and its tributaries, when the Colorado Plateau was lifted up and the river ran through any place that would let it. There are a plethora of tours available to bring you to the most impressive and extraordinary views, plus you can go whitewater rafting down the Colorado River, hopefully getting some viewing time to enjoy all the colors and formations, as well as the occasional wild animal. You can fly over the canyon in small plane or helicopter flights which leave Las Vegas, take a river rafting tour from Sedona or Las Vegas; or even travel down the slopes of the canyon on mules. However, the mule train route is fairly difficult and if you are unsure of yourself at heights, perhaps you would be better off taking a rafting tour. Whatever way you choose, the canyon is beautiful and incredibly impressive. As mentioned before, it is certainly one of the natural wonders of the world and will be one of the most memorable trips you will ever take in your life.  The canyon gets over 5 million visitors each year, which means it can get crowded at times, but especially during the spring, summer and fall months. The least crowded period to visit is from November to February; but you must remember that it is winter all over and could affect your traveling. Planning is the best way to start since you will absolutely reserve where you plan on staying, whether camping or lodging at one of the many places to stay. The south rim is open all year, but the north rim is open mid May through mid October, but has fewer facilities and is 200 miles from one rim to the other. Also be sure to say what rim you want to explore and the elevation can be troublesome to people with respiratory problems. The entire site is located in a remote part of the state, so if you are driving you own vehicle or renting one, a set of extra keys is well worth the amount of hours you would have to wait for a locksmith. Always carry extra water when traveling in this part of the country, since cell phone service is very limited, if at all possible, and keep your gas tank full. You can bring your pets, but they must be on a lease, unless it is a certified service dog. 

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  • Petrified Forest National ParkPetrified Forest National Park Arizona
    The Petrified Forest National Park sits beside Interstate 40, between Holbrook and Navajo, in Arizona, featuring one of the biggest and most colorful concentrations of petrified wood in the world, and is made up of two big areas that are connected by a north south corridor. The northern region contains part of the multihued badlands of the Upper Triassic Chinle Formation that is known as the Painted Desert, and the southern region contains many colorful landscapes with numerous concentrations of petrified wood. There are some marvelous American Indian petroglyphs scattered throughout the area, with the Agate House located in the south end of the park. This Native American house was built in the 1930s using petrified wood. The park was made a National Monument in 1906, with the Painted Desert being added later on. In 1962, the complete monument was made into a national park, covering some 340 square miles. Hiking is limited, with the longest trail being only two miles, and the rest are a mile or less. If you are interested in backcountry hiking, then the Painted Desert is about 200 miles that is protected as part of the Petrified Forest National Wilderness Area; containing beautiful stark, yet very colorful moonscapes that sit in the badlands. This vast playground is a mesmerizing journey into surrealism with switchbacks, turnarounds and the like. The pieces of permineralized wood are fossil Araucariaceae, a type of tree that has become extinct in the northern hemisphere, but still lives in isolated parts of the southern hemisphere; although that could soon change as greedy people live in all parts of the world and could care less of wiping out a tree, plant or animal for their own personal benefit.

January 11, 2011